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I write every day about living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words


Superiority Complex

5 min read

This is a story about delusions of grandeur...

Thought bubble

The problem with slinging pseudoscientific mud, is that sooner or later you're going to come up against somebody who knows what they're talking about; they're able to rigorously follow the scientific method, and they can see right through the dumbed-down pathetic attempts to create popular ideas, which prey upon our preconceived notions, our biases, our vanity and our insecurities.

If we look at applications for university places, there are vast numbers who want to study arts and humanities subjects. Then, the social 'sciences' are the next most popular. Bottom of the pile, in terms of popularity, are the difficult, dry, technical subjects: mathematics, engineering, chemistry, physics, computing. You cannot 'blag' that you know what you're talking about in a technical subject: there are right answers and wrong answers, and no amount of blagging will convince anybody that you're right, when you're wrong, and you're provably wrong.

The social 'sciences' - anthropology, sociology, psychology etc - are not sciences. Science follows a strict prescriptive methodology, and anything which doesn't adhere is not science. The social 'sciences' produce nothing but worthless crap, because it's not science - the results of experiments cannot be reproduced. Any experiment which doesn't have reproducible results, is a non-experiment; a waste of time; absolutely useless.

In an attempt to appear like real medical science, psychiatry has attempted to apply statistical methods, to make the diagnosis of pathologies of the mind, into a supposedly objective exercise. In theory, the patient's symptoms are all that are needed in order to make an accurate diagnosis, via the power of statistics - so, in theory, there's no need for psychiatrists any more. We should, in theory, be able to diagnose ourselves and then simply obtain the required medication from a pharmacist: no doctors required.

No. No. No. The psychiatrists say.

You need us to interpret these hard statistics, and add our own opinions. Say the psychiatrists.

So, what happened to this being a scientific process, driven by data and statistics?

The truth is that everyone will use their knowledge and position of authority in order to pursue their power games. Psychiatrists will never use a scientific statistical method, because then they become redundant.

Unfortunately, psychologists have latched onto psychiatry's attempt to become more scientific, and lend some credibility to their profession. Psychologists are probably more obsessed with statistical methods for 'diagnosis' than psychiatrists are. Psychologists, who, let us remember, were not clever enough to become doctors, engineers, mathematicians etc, opted for a profession where there are no right or wrong answers; anything you say is equally dumb and meaningless. Of course, psychologists would want to pretend like there was any kind of rigour, any kind of methodology, data or statistics, behind their work.

There isn't.

The problem with psychologists latching onto the work of psychiatry, is that they try to import theories and apply them. Psychologists - especially amateur wannabe psychologists of the armchair variety - love to throw around labels like "psychopath", "sociopath", "narcissist" etc. when in fact, those labels were only intended to ever apply to the tiniest fraction of humanity. How can it be meaningful to call every man you've ever met a "pathological narcissist"? How have rare medical conditions gone beyond that of an epidemic, to now become things which affect the vast majority of humanity?

It hasn't happened.

Only a tiny fraction of the human race suffer from pathologies such as narcissism and sociopathy.

You can't just label people you don't like with psychiatric pathologies.

It's dumb.

Amateur psychologists are dumb.

Psychiatric language is ubiquitous in our culture. We use terms like "crazy", "mad", "loony", "loopy", "wacky" and every other flavour of term for 'insanity' to mean everything on the spectrum, from upset and angry, to schizophrenic psychosis. We call ourselves "OCD" when we just mean neat, tidy and clean. We call ourselves "bipolar" when we just mean moody. Meanwhile, depression and anxiety are so common, and so many of us are medicated, that we hardly even bother to talk about the fact we've been diagnosed with those illnesses anymore - we make memes about killing ourselves; we make memes about how dysfunctional we are.

To talk about a 'superiority complex' in the present day, is like giving out speeding tickets to the competitors at the Silverstone Formula One grand prix race. To talk about 'narcissism' is something that you really should do on your YouTube channel, or on your Instagram Story, or on your Facebook page, or one of your TikTok videos. Utterly nonsensical. Unhinged. Mad.

Yes, there are people who are so affected by the Dunning-Kruger effect that they are unable to comprehend the limitations of their abilities: they will never be a mathematician, engineer, chemist, physicist, software engineer or suchlike; they're not clever enough. Those over-confident people's ignorance is not as good as my knowledge. We are, unfortunately, living in an age where vast numbers of people think that their 'life experiences' and 'gut feel' qualifies them to opine on subjects, which they are utterly, dismally ignorant about, exposing their appalling stupidity, much to the chagrin of anybody with half a brain.

So, anyway, I'm sick of pop-psych 'magazines' (especially online) publishing articles about narcissists with superiority complexes. They don't exist... you're just pedalling word-salad, put into the mouths of your readers. Your readers will use that word-salad to attack people they don't like.





10 min read

This is a story about making people better...


I remember the days when I thought that there were magic buildings full of magic people with magic potions who could make magical things happen. I remember the days when I was naïvely optimistic about the abilities of people, institutions and organisations who make highly alluring claims: we can cure you!

If I had ruptured a major blood vessel, or my body was losing its battle against a bacterial infection, you can be damn sure that I'd want somebody to stop the bleeding or give me some antibiotics. If I had an operable cancer, you can be sure that I'd want somebody to cut it out of my body.

Some areas of medicine are comparatively new. Some areas of medicine don't have a great deal of success - the data doesn't show significantly better outcomes for patients who are treated, versus those who are untreated. Medicine is actively losing its battle to save lives in some areas, such as suicide and opioid addiction. Mental health problems and addiction have been declared medical emergencies; epidemics.

Sometimes I wonder if it's useful to think of myself as having a chronic illness, and to expect that problems are just around the corner. I can have a good day, a good week, a good month... maybe even a good year. However, it's probably dangerous to start thinking of myself as "cured" or "recovered" and begin to consider myself "normal". Complacency will no doubt lead to repetition of past mistakes, which can result in an incredibly fast chain of disastrous events, destroying every semblance of a normal life, which was so convincing that I and other people were completely convinced that I'm just another ordinary bloke... not some ticking time bomb.

I fought very hard to get treatment. There was a great deal of reluctance to diagnose me as bipolar, and there was further reluctance to treat me. I seemed very functional. My problems seemed acute. Everybody hoped that I'd go away and get better without intervention.

wanted treatment. I knew I was getting sicker. I knew that my situation was deteriorating. I could see the car crash that was about to happen.

I believed that treatment was effective.

I just had to find the right treatment.

I tried so many medicines. I also believed in the "magical healing powers" of hospitals and doctors. I was indoctrinated by the medical establishment's dogma: "we are the experts and we are the only ones who can cure you".

Of course, I'm not such a fool that I believe in alternative medicine. I critically examine all the claims of all charlatans, quacks, healers and others who promote themselves as miracle-workers. Desperate people are suckers. People are also lazy and gullible. Many of us will be scammed in our lifetimes, because we are so desperate to believe in the existence of things that are too good to be true.

It would have been good I could have avoided that period of my life when I was desperately searching to find the right specialist, hoping that a stay in hospital would be my salvation, or trying a heap of different medications in the hope that I would stumble upon the right one, but it was a necessary education. I needed to learn what was possible, and what was not possible. I needed to see with my own eyes and experience those things first-hand, to learn the limitations of psychiatric medicine.

Psychiatry is young. Mainstream psychiatry - the prescribing of psychiatric medications on a massive scale - is an experiment that's barely a few decades old, which is no time at all, when we consider that anatomical studies of the human body and surgery are parts of medicine which are hundreds of years old. The present-day situation, where at least half of us will take a pill for depression or anxiety at some point in our lives, and so many of us have been taking psychiatric medications for years and years... this would have been unthinkable before Prozac successfully normalised the practice of dispensing mind-altering drugs to tens of millions of people across the USA and Europe. Nobody really knew what the long-term consequences and long-term outcomes would be.

I've lost interest in having any contact with doctors now. I've lost interest in any new developments in the field of psychiatry. I've lost interest in the idea that there will ever be a miracle pill to cure depression, anxiety or to stabilise moods. The brain has proven a far more complex organ than the blunt instruments of psychoactive substances are able to have any precise effect on. Pills are useful for curing a bacterial infection, but they are of no use in an organ which has been evolved to specifically resist attempts to alter it - the brain's ability to maintain homeostasis is incredible, and all psychiatric medications are fundamentally flawed, because they affect a plastic organ, which can simply adapt itself and return to its original state.

Hospitals can offer welcome respite - sanctuary - from the unreasonable demands of the world. Hospitals have their place as a controlled, safe environment, full of caring people. However, psychiatric care has changed radically in the short time that we have been practicing it as a branch of medicine. Those who are ill-equipped to cope with life outside institutions cannot expect to live in an asylum forever, which might sound like a good thing for those who believe that people can be cured and rehabilitated. However, in my experience, it is the horror of the "real world" which is the very reason for the epidemic of mental health problems, and it's often infinitely preferable to protected with the safe confines of an institution than to be fending for oneself in the big wide world. The idea of losing your freedom might sound terrifying and unpleasant, but for those who are struggling to cope - struggling to be functional - freedom is a small price to pay, for the comforting reassurance of life inside an institution.

When you are a child and you hurt yourself, you run to your parents to "kiss it better" but often the injury remains painful for sometime and there is nothing that can be done to alleviate your discomfort. We learn that sticking plasters, stitches and plaster casts can help our bodies mend themselves, but there is nothing to be done to speed up the healing process. There is little that can be done to take away our pain. There is little that can be done when we are suffering mental anguish.

Although my life was very badly damaged, I'm now part of a large organisation where I'm known to a lot of people, and they'd be concerned if I went AWOL. My home city is still very new to me - and I know very few people locally - but I also think that somebody would ring my doorbell and check on me if I went AWOL. I have a routine. I have put things around myself that are structured and stable, even if that rebuilding process is very far from complete.

I've been here before... so very close to a fresh start; a complete life. About a year ago, in the blink of an eye I lost most of my new friends, my new girlfriend and my new job. The year before I nearly died, and I regained consciousness to find I'd lost my girlfriend, my home and my job. I'm aware that my life is very fragile. I'm aware that my existence is precarious.

I wrote positively yesterday about my life and how far I've come since the very deepest depths I sank to, but I know that I have a difficult job trying to stabilise myself and find a way of living my life that's sustainable, and tolerable... pleasant even, one hopes.

It's strange that I've been so much and ultimately reached the conclusion that I was doing a reasonably good job of looking after myself, but I simply had some very stressful life events to deal with. I thought that I could turn to doctors and hospitals to make me better - and indeed my life was certainly saved when my physical health was severely damaged - but now I feel much happier doing everything on my own: I prescribe my own medications, adjust my own dosages... but mainly I just try as best as I can to create a tolerable set of circumstances to allow myself to thrive; I've come to recognise that my family don't care about me and have abandoned me. I've been incredibly lucky to have very loyal, generous, kind, caring friends and wonderful girlfriends, who've believed in me, and looked after me, and stuck by me through the difficult times.

When you see the finished product - a functional man - then we might assume either that he never had any major difficulties in his life, or that treatment was a success. I'm grateful for the hard work, effort and dedication of those who work in psychiatry, but my ultimate conclusion is that it's a flawed branch of medicine. Things could have ended very badly, but those friends who bothered to come and visit me in hospital, check on me when I went AWOL, look after me when I was sick, believe in me, support me... that's the thing that was the key to giving me a chance at getting my life back. Those who've read my blog and are kind enough to reach out to me - to be in contact - have helped me to feel like I have some value, and to feel some self-esteem.

My colleagues don't know how sick I've been, and they don't know how much it means that I'm able to be treated like a normal person at work. My colleagues don't know how important it is that I have the structure and routine of office life. My colleagues don't know how great it is for my mental health to have the social interaction that we have, even if it's just office chit-chat.

We might conclude that the doctors I saw 11 years ago were right - I'm not really very sick and I'm quite capable of living a fully functional normal life - but they're also wrong, because everything had to get smashed to smithereens and rebuilt from nothing, before I could reach this point. I nearly died so many times. Was it avoidable though? Probably not.

That's my conclusion: I've learned a hell of a lot, but it would be wrong of me to start telling people that I have the answers, because what I discovered was that I had to learn everything first-hand. If I had a time machine and went back to tell myself everything I've learned up until now, I don't think I'd believe myself and I'd end up making exactly the same decisions, much like children have to make mistakes even though their parents warn them about everything and try to protect them.

Does this mean that I forgive my parents for abandoning me? Nope. If your kid is sick in hospital, you go and visit them. Period. No ifs. No buts. You don't abandon your children, no matter how old they are.





5 min read

This is a story about refusing help...


If you spend enough time with general practitioners, general psychiatrists, specialist consultant psychiatrists, registered mental nurses, specialty doctors and all the very many other mental health professionals who are part of inpatient and outpatient clinics, community mental health teams, crisis teams and all the other apparatus which is supposed to treat mental health problems, one begins to realise a rather unsettling truth: there aren't very many treatments and they don't work very well.

Psychiatry is a young branch of medicine and it doesn't have a lot to crow about. Since the days of asylums and lobotomies, psychiatry has been dogged by scandals, including the extrapyramidal side effects of medications which have left patients with lifelong irreversible unpleasant problems. The data do not show encouraging outcomes. In fact the outlook is dismal and appears to be worsening as the toxic conditions which create mental health problems, seem to be intensifying. Rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, autistic spectrum disorders, attention deficit and hyperactivity... these are all soaring. Treatments are not effective and vast numbers of people are condemned to suffer with their illnesses AND the side effects of the medications.

I've been lucky enough to have access to private medical care, at times, and even with the very best professionals and medications, there is not a vast difference between what's available from the public healthcare system. It's all pretty crap and it doesn't work very well.

This is not a damning indictment of those who dedicate their lives to trying to treat mental illness, but simply a cold hard rational analysis of the facts.

The conclusion I've reached has been that there's an over-medicalisation of non-medical problems. The bulk of my problems have stemmed from the collapse of my relationships. I got divorced. I am estranged from my family. I've been forced to move to cities where I have no friends - no social support network - in order to work jobs which have been unsuitable for my health. I have the enormous pressure of having to work full-time, to pay rent, bills and service enormous debts, which is unbearable for a person who's having a crisis.

My mental health would be vastly improved if I had a partner, a social support network of local friends, financial and housing security and a job with reduced hours, until this crisis is resolved. Healthy diet, sleep hygiene, exercise, sex, physical affection, sunlight, fresh air, social contact, hobbies and interests... these things are all essential for human wellbeing. None of those things can be prescribed by a doctor.

During the worst days of my addiction and rough sleeping, I noticed that my fellow homeless alcoholics and addicts were not without some routine and social lives. Romantic relationships are not the exclusive preserve of those who live in houses and have jobs. The life of a homeless drug addict might be chaotic to the outside observer, but a less prejudiced analysis reveals no less structure, no less need for comfort, no less humanity. Those who have fallen into habits of addiction and homelessness might find the community of drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless to provide the social support network and sense of community, which they'd struggle to find living anonymously behind a front door.

Does anybody really know I'm here... in this house... in this city? In many ways I have found my contact with hospitals and the police to be of great comfort. I have found the nonjudgemental members of the NHS and police force to be incredibly kind and compassionate people. It's nonsensical, but I've been happy to be hospitalised or arrested. I've been happy to be in a cell or on a hospital ward, with somebody checking on my welfare. Behind my own front door I could be hanging by the neck, dead, and nobody would discover me for days or maybe even weeks.

My problems are mainly attributable to unmet basic needs: hugs, face-to-face conversation and a sense of belonging.

Because of the obvious things which need to be fixed in my life, it seems wrong to seek medical help, when my mood could be radically different if all the broken things were fixed. It might sound like a fun adventure, going to new cities, but the reality is very miserable and lonely. The reality of my present life is that I don't pick up the phone to speak to anybody when I'm feeling dangerously depressed - who would I phone? What would they do? It's not like anybody can nip round to check I'm OK.

Humans are social creatures, but I live on the periphery. I live on the periphery of life itself, always in danger of death or medical emergency. The state of being suicidal should be considered a medical emergency, especially in men of age 20 to 40, where suicide is the biggest cause of death. My perception of the danger is not warped, given my history of suicide attempts and hospitalisations.

There isn't a pill or some psychological therapy which would be effective... especially not when so much of my life is broken. It's not a medical problem. Sure, I have an underlying mood disorder, but the highs and lows of bipolar don't make me as unhappy as my social isolation does.

How I set about fixing things, I have no idea. The task seems insurmountable.




Five Minutes of Your Precious Time

4 min read

This is a story about daily habits...

Apple watch

The average amount of time my readers spend on my blog per visit is 3 minutes and 12 seconds. The average number of words in one of my blog posts is 1,318 and an average reader reads at 200 words per minute, so I'm writing double the amount that people want to read.

I'm lucky enough to have had a handful of very dedicated people who've actually read everything, from start to finish. It should be noted, however, that at least two of them were people who read as part of their profession, and they can probably read at about 1,000 words per minute.

The average casual reader doesn't want to read a 10,000 word blog post which was written in a state of sleep deprivation and mania, and published with very little editing.

Less is more.

People also want to read stories not rambling nonsense. When I was live-publishing a chapter of my first novel draft manuscript every day, my readers were hooked. During that period of November 2016 my blog became 'sticky' - visitors came and then stayed; they kept on reading because there was a story being told.

I've gotten into dreadfully bad habits during the past 25 days because I was so fixated on word count. Also, I've lost my way a lot this year, not really knowing what I was writing about, for whom and why.

I keep a list of writing prompts, which are generally just titles of future blog posts serving as an aide memoire of topics I want to write about. The topics are quite eclectic but usually revolve around social issues. Anti-capitalism, pro-socialism, anti-organised-religion, anti-natalism, anti-psychiatry and generally liberal and left-leaning sentiments are themes which often recur. I often write defensively about how people with mental health and addiction issues can participate positively in society and shouldn't be stigmatised, demonised or thought of as flawed or weak. I write a great deal about my frustration with the great futility and inefficiency of working doing bullshit jobs until the day we die. I often despair aloud about the total absurdity of wasting our finite mortal lives on utter nonsense. I can't hide my anger at being denied the opportunity to be an artist; to be creative. I feel trapped; I do not feel free at all and my resentment of the prison bars always seems to bubble to the surface.

I'm a writer. I create another little piece of my artwork every day. How could I possibly not feel free? Why do I want something I've clearly already got?

In fact, I'm an irrelevant commentator who's not even on the fringe, let alone participating in any political, social, artistic, creative, journalistic, literary or academic movement. I'm just a reclusive lonely isolated man who writes in obscurity, mostly unnoticed and unheard. I'm fighting what feels like an unwinnable battle, to have a say in my own life.

I'm practical and pragmatic enough to realise that art and writing is never going to pay the bills. I'm realistic enough to see that everybody is trying to get noticed and to promote themselves, with the hopes of being heard. I'm cynical and pessimistic enough to believe that there isn't a newspaper column, book deal or 'viral' event which would ever have enough of a life-transforming impact for me to be able to quit my day job. There's simply not enough room at the top for everybody who wants to be a bestselling author, award-winning journalist, entertainer, commentator, influencer, politician or otherwise have some impact on people's daily lives and a pleasant and rewarding career in the creative arts.

So, in my infinite frustration with the ways of the world, I'm taking what I want. I'm doing what I want to do anyway, even though it's costly to me and doesn't appear to benefit me in any obvious way. I spend my precious spare time writing, editing, proofreading and publishing my creative efforts, and giving away what I write for free. In many ways, I am an enemy of those who have enough trust fund money and inherited wealth to be able to be artists, because my contributions must surely devalue the commodity.

I write because there's only one thing I can possibly get: exposure. If I write enough, slowly but surely I get noticed. Writing and publishing a million-word suicide note is a ludicrously hard thing to do, so it's notable.

Have you ever noticed how overnight successes actually take very many years to perfect?

My next challenge is to try to make my readers feel that it was worth their while visiting and reading.




Forced to be Free

10 min read

This is a story about normality...

Psych ward garden

Most people want a secure job, secure housing and to feel prosperous. Most people don't care about freedom of speech and a free press. Given the choice between security and freedom, most people would choose security every time. It's only a handful of paternalistic elites who dictate that we the people care a very great deal about freedom, when in actual fact this is not true at all.

Freedom has a very narrow definition. When we talk about freedom of speech and a free press, we do not also acknowledge the freedom to be hungry, the freedom to be homeless, the freedom to be marginalised, excluded and abandoned by our "fit in or f**k off" culture. While we might enjoy freedom of speech and a free press, those luxuries are only useful to a privileged few; the wealthy elites; the rich and powerful. While you are theoretically free to run for political office or broadcast your opinions, you are not at all free in practice.

The only freedoms that ordinary people have are the choice between virtually identical minimum wage zero-hours contract McJobs; the choice between conformity or social exclusion. You can be a free tramp, if you choose: you can be homeless, penniless, destitute and free, or you can be enslaved to the capitalists... it's up to you; you're free to choose.

Further, for those who are not neurotypical you have to choose between social exclusion, stigma and poverty or the chemical straightjacket of powerful psychotropic medications. You're free to accept the diagnoses and swallow the pills, and allow yourself to be 'normalised' so that you fit the rigid static definition of how a 'normal' person should think and act, or you can choose to be excluded from most economic and social activity because you don't fit in.

Many of us willingly and indeed eagerly beat a path to the door of our doctors, demanding medications that will return us to 'normality' when we find that we are deviating from what we perceive to be the norm. We see millions of others around us getting up at dawn, commuting to bullshit office jobs and being uncomplaining, so when we're troubled by depression, anxiety and other disruptive changes which force us to confront the purposelessness of our absurd existence, we 'choose' to be made normal again by psychiatry.

Society should be constantly adapting to the changing needs of the people, such that the stress and exhaustion in our lives is reduced or at least kept constant, but instead we see that the people themselves believe that they are the ones at fault. Students take amphetamines, modafinil and methylphenidate in order to artificially increase their concentration spans and stay awake during marathon exam-cramming sessions. Workers drink tea, coffee and energy drinks in a desperate attempt to stimulate their brains and fend off tiredness. We take antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications so that we can withstand the horrors of a society which places greater and greater demands upon us, while also giving us less and less security: our jobs are under threat, our homes are under threat, we and our children are under threat. Where has the feeling of prosperity and the sense of optimism gone? We presume that it must be us who have faulty brains, as opposed to seeing that it's society itself which is failing to deliver the things we need.

As is oft-quoted: "it is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society"

When more than 50% of the population are categorised as suffering from some sort of mental disorder, we must surely accept that it's the minority group who are the sick ones. Why should society continue only to serve the ones who are not suffering? Why should our idea of what is 'normal' be based on something which is abnormal because it is less common? Why are we trying to conform to such unrealistic and impossible ideals, which do not serve the majority of people?

"I'm miserable, so you have to be miserable too"

I think the above quote accurately sums up the attitude of powerfully influential figures in our society, who are blocking any progress towards a better way of life for all our citizens. I had the misfortune of making the acquaintance of a doctor who hated their job, their commute, the daily grind and - seemingly - their patients. This doctor made it their mission in life to deny time off work to anybody they could. Their reasoning was simple: because they were miserable and hated their job, they were going to make everybody within their power suffer too. A doctor has the power to dispense medications which might temporarily mask the symptoms of a sick and broken society, or to sign a piece of paper which excuses a person from the charade of having to go to their bullshit McJob every day. A doctor has the power to inflict misery on potentially thousands of people every year, and we must presume that as many doctors are as miserable as the general population as a whole, which means that more than 50% of doctors are perpetrating this kind of awfulness on the people they have power over.

We worship medicine and medics as a force for good, but in the increasing absence of organised religion in wealthy western democratic countries, we are seeing doctors elevated to a social status beyond what is reasonable, creating demi-gods who abuse their power. Just as with organised religion, we have suspended rational thought, cynicism, curious inquiry and skepticism, and have placed blind faith in the medical establishment to cure the ills of society. We reject politics and politicians as corrupt self-serving liars and we have lost faith in the ability of our vote and other democratic instruments to be able to influence our lives for the better.

The only thing we believe we're able to change is ourselves, with the assistance of doctors who can give us "magic bullet" pills to alter our mood and perceptions, as well as keeping us youthful and protecting us from death. We have fake tits, white teeth, hair implants, botox and numerous other procedures to alter our appearance, because we're powerless over anything except our looks. We can be reasonably sure that our lives are protected by hospitals and medicines, but our power to influence anything else in life, such as our socioeconomic prospects, is precisely zero.

While a sharp-elbowed tranche of middle-class society obsesses about their children's exam grades, places at the most desirable schools and universities, internships, graduate training programmes and otherwise attempting to give their precious little darlings a head start in life, this blinkered myopia ignores the fact that the baby boomers are getting older and older but living longer and longer, while also amassing asset portfolios well beyond their means, and preventing those precious little darlings from having any hope of having secure jobs and secure housing. In order to pay grotesquely unjustified and disgustingly greedy defined-benefit pensions to the generation who've contributed the least - except to national debts, global warming and a decline in living standards - the pension funds demand that workers are paid pitiful wages for longer hours in terrible working conditions, so that profits, capital gains and dividends can keep sustaining the unsustainable, unrealistic and ridiculously greedy selfish demands of those who are taking out far more than they paid in.

A small segment of society is free to write, paint, photograph, travel and generally enjoy the freedoms that we would all love to have, but the very vast majority of us are too busy trying to survive in an ecomony which is built to benefit the few, not the many. Only the old and wealthy are free, and they did not work hard to earn their freedom: they have stolen that freedom from the young and from the future generations who will inherit all the problems of today and tomorrow.

If you're an artist and/or an academic and you enjoy your life and your job, you need to remember that the position of privilege you're in is very rare and a very high price is paid by a huge number of people, so that you can swan around having a lovely time. Your freedom ends where mine begins, so if your freedom is disproportionately large compared to the rest of society's then you're being greedy and antisocial; you're an enemy of society. While it's very trendy to talk about freedom being important, we must be mindful that most people want security, not freedom. Think about the price that's paid by the whole of society for your luxury privileges.

To be truly free and happy, we might have to re-evaluate our priorities. We can't demand cheap food and cheap goods if we want to be free, for example, because those things are only made possible by the exploitation of workers. We can't demand passive labour-free unearned income, for example, because that's only made possible by tyranny, economic slavery and exploitation of the vulnerable. Most importantly, we can't expect to feel contentment and security, when we need unhappy, insecure people in order to sell consumer products and to keep our entire workforce on the treadmill, by heavily indebting them and denying them social housing or the ability to buy/build their own home.

You might teach your children that a strong work ethic and academic excellence are the route to getting ahead in life, but it's not true. Being a compliant hard worker means you will be exploited, and obtaining academic qualifications incurs a substantial amount of debt. Servicing debts and paying rent is a form of tyranny which has encroached on personal freedom to the point where only a tiny fraction of society enjoys any kind of meaningful freedom at all. Your children will not be able to escape the trap; there's no hope. The depression and lack of optimism for the future is driven by a rational, reasonable and sound assessment of our younger generations' prospects.

Our heavily indebted and heavily medicated society is also controlled by draconian laws which were ostensibly introduced to counteract terrorism and industrial unrest, but have been abused to undermine the strength of trade unions and prevent the establishment of any counter-cultural movements which might challenge the status quo. While we should be living in an age of alternative lifestyles and people dropping out of a society which clearly no longer serves the majority of people's needs, we are instead witnessing a miserable dystopia, where we're all trapped on the treadmill because the only alternative is hunger, homelessness, persecution and social exclusion.

Yes, I'm free to write whatever I want, provided I do not defame the powerful figures who are responsible for maintaining this miserable state of existence for so many millions, but those in power are quite comfortable in the knowledge that my ranting is safely confined to an echo-chamber filled with so much noise that, as Aldous Huxley predicted, the truth is drowned in a sea of irrelevance - information overload.

We are somewhat hoisted by our own petard. Almost none of us of us demanded freedom, but we have collectively made freedom of speech into something useless; toothless. We are not free at all and we have no mechanism by which to affect any meaningful change. What is supposedly our most powerful tool to speak truth to power - the freedom to express ourselves - has in fact become the reason why our voices are not heard and our suffering goes ignored.

All that's left is the freedom to be hungry, homeless, persecuted and excluded.




Are People Just Humouring Me?

5 min read

This is a story about sanity...

Clinical psychology department

Some days I feel like I have very good "insight" - that is to say I'm able to discern between the thoughts and feelings which are caused by mental illness, and those which would seem sane and rational to a "normal" person. Other days, I'm quite clearly as mad as a box of frogs - some days I make terrible decisions and I'm absolutely convinced of things which later prove to have been quite illogical and irrational, perhaps even psychotic, delusional and even hallucinatory.

In the months where I was living with a doctor - although I was working away for most of that time - the doctor seemed particularly intent on picking me apart psychologically; psychoanalysing me. I should note as a caveat that the doctor was not qualified in psychiatry or psychology, which is probably why their conclusions varied from a firmly held belief that I had no mental illness whatsoever, to some pretty wild and random diagnoses.

When you're living with a doctor and they can't decide whether your 100% sane or 100% insane, it's pretty hard to know yourself where you are on the spectrum. I'm pretty confused.

Certainly, when economic necessity imposes itself upon me, I can work for fairly lengthy periods with my colleagues completely unaware that I've been living with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder for the best part of a decade. When the wolf is at the door, I seem to be able to keep a lid on the madness, even though I'm completely unmedicated.

Does this ability to "pick and choose" when I'm "well" and when I'm unwell provide strong evidence that I'm not mentally ill at all? My own father is on record as saying that he doesn't believe I have a mental illness, but instead that I use it as an excuse for my [mis]behaviour... but then he's not a doctor, and neither is he sympathetic towards people who suffer from mental illness either.

I don't know if I do "pick and choose" anyway. I work whenever I can, for as long as I can. Sometimes the timing works out OK, and the very worst of my symptoms can be kept hidden so that my colleagues remain none the wiser to my diagnosed condition. More commonly though, I eventually struggle to keep my mental illness a secret, because it either causes me to be off work sick, or I'm manic in the office, which is never a good situation to be in.

Perhaps the obvious tell-tale signs of something being wrong with me are there all the time, but people are too polite to say anything: they're just humouring me. Sometimes I can't keep my mouth shut and I'm over-enthusiastic. Sometimes I literally cannot drag myself into the office. We all have good days and bad days, but I must be atypical in my working patterns, which would be a giveaway that there's something strange about me.

I was reluctant to use the photo of me not wearing my cunning and infallible disguise, but I decided to use it anyway. A colleague Google'd me and found my blog at the last place I was working. He didn't say anything, but one day he asked if I wear contact lenses. I wonder if there's anything inherently wrong with having a candid, honest blog out on the public internet for all to see. Certainly it was used against me by one or maybe even two unscrupulous bosses, but on the whole I've found that most people read looking for the best rather than digging for the dirt and thinking the worst of me.

I was tempted to do some blog-sanitising, given that I've managed to survive a period when it looked as if all my hard work was going to be destroyed by a period of illness, but I've come out the other side and I'm working again. I really need to have a sustained period of regular income, so that I can sort out my finances and get back on an even keel. It would be quite catastrophic if I was hoisted by my own petard: that my own website was the reason why I lost a lucrative job.

I haven't really proven my worth yet at the latest organisation I'm working for, but I certainly did at all the previous places, which makes me wonder whether I'm just as "normal" as anybody else, or whether I really have a serious mental illness which I'm only just managing to cope with. It certainly feels more like the latter than the former, given the stress, anxiety and struggles I feel I'm going through, even though I'm doing the same kind of work that I've been doing for 20+ years... it should be a walk in the park; easy-peasy, but it's not.

It's hard to put into words the things I struggle with. If you've never experienced anxiety and depression, they're nonsensical to you; irrational. If you have no tendency for your moods to become unregulated and you've never experienced racing thoughts, flight of ideas, pressured speech and becoming completely obsessive about projects, then you'd probably struggle to relate to somebody who has to constantly monitor and alter their natural behaviour.

Sometimes I reflect on my actions and I can see that there are mental illness symptoms which are driving my behaviour, and I try harder to change how I behave in the office. Other times, my moods are just too extreme and I can't self-regulate.

The question always remains in my mind though... how obvious is it that I've "got problems" and how much to people humour me and ignore my weirdness out of politeness?

It's so hard to perceive yourself as others do. It's so hard to be objective about yourself and the thoughts and behaviour you exhibit.





9 min read

This is a story about doing no harm...

Pile of pills

Imagine that somebody says to you "you're so argumentative". What could you possibly say in return? You can't say "no I'm not" because then they'll say "yes you are and the fact that you're arguing proves it". There are lots of other quirks of the English language that allow you to box people in, such as asking questions like "so when did you stop raping children?" or some other kind of fallacy.

I'm not actually against psychiatrists and psychiatric medications. Every psychiatrist is different. Most psychiatrists who work in the NHS have to deal with society's very sickest and most dysfunctional cases. Every psychiatric bed in England is filled with somebody who is being detained against their will for 28 days, or more likely for 6 months. There aren't any spare psychiatric beds for people who are merely having a crisis and who are in danger of committing suicide - the NHS will call your bluff and leave you to die, as so many do, because mental health services are overstretched and underfunded.

The kinds of treatment on offer vary from snake-oil bullshit, such as CBT and other behavioural therapies, to chemical coshes that will put you into the drugged equivalent of a straightjacket. For sure, there are some very sick people who are psychotically disturbed, but powerful antipsychotics are not a panacea for all problems of the mind. In some countries, physical restraints are more commonplace. In the UK, we dope people up to the eyeballs.

If you've never lost your liberty you won't quite be able to comprehend how terrible it is. We're free-thinking individuals who move through the world according to our whims - the illusion of free will. When locked into an overcrowded psych ward, even if you asked to be hospitalised because you feared for your own safety, you might suddenly panic that you won't be able to get back out.

Ironically, you can't say "I'm not argumentative" when somebody wrongly accuses you of being argumentative, and it's equally impossible to say "I'm not mad" when you're trapped by psychiatry. The only strategy you can play is to be calm and patient and ignore the provocation, which is easier said than done. It's a very natural reaction to want to defend ourselves against unfounded allegations. To have our character criticised by somebody who doesn't know a damn thing about us, is incredibly insulting. When somebody who hardly knows us has the ability to detain us against our will, and even to have us forcibly medicated, then the situation is unbearable.

I don't doubt that psychiatrists believe they have their patients' best interests at heart, but there's no acknowledgement of the antagonisation, frustration, anger and upset that they provoke. Nobody should have godlike powers over any other human being. The line between sane and insane, sick and healthy, right and wrong thoughts... these are completely arbitrary. There can be no ultimate arbiter who decides who's normal and who's not - it's not right that anybody should sit in judgement.

Am I arguing that we should fling open the doors to our asylums and let the mental patients roam free? It's more complicated than that. A survey of the general public revealed that the vast majority of people wouldn't want to live next door to, work with or have their children play with a schizophrenic. It seems that those paranoid delusions are not so paranoid after all - no smoke without fire. Having had my case reviewed at mental health tribunal to decide whether to give me back my freedom or not, it appalled me how six people could sit and have a discussion about me as if I wasn't even present in the room. To button my lip and remain silent through proceedings; to maintain my polite and courteous façade - this was virtually impossible when my liberty was at stake.

Another thing that's deeply upsetting is the way that the patient is often mobbed. Ward rounds consist of sitting with a whole room full of people - usually a couple of psychiatrists and a couple of nurses - who sit stroking their chins while the patient explains the same thing for the millionth time: please stop ganging up on me and let me go. Of course, there are mental heath problems present, but the set-up is antagonising. Should we just let anorexics stop eating and die? Should we just let the psychotic do what the voices tell them to do? This isn't what I'm arguing for. I'm just pointing out that even the most sane amongst us would be driven mad by a jeering crowd, licensed to torment and keep their victims in captivity.

If you imagine that you might get to spend 10 minutes with the psychiatrist who has the power to set you free, once every week or every fortnight, all the decisions are more important than I can possibly express in words. If you're on a medication which is causing you intolerable side effects, in a psych ward setting which is causing you intolerable distress, you're going to have to wait a couple of weeks before you can have another go at trying to communicate your needs to the doctor... which you'll have to do through the foggy haze of powerful antipsychotic medication. "This man is making no sense" they'll say, because you've been drugged into a dribbling mess. What further proof could be necessary to show that you're an imbecile who could never survive outside the protective walls of an institution?

Experiments were conducted by investigative journalists, who deliberately got themselves committed to institutions, only to find they couldn't get out again - the system grabbed them. The harder you fight the system, the more you're giving the system the 'proof' that you really are mad. It's maddeningly self-perpetuating.

Very few of us have the ability to bring our racing pulse back under control, to lower our respiration rate, to relax our muscles. Very few of us possess the ability to react to incredible stress, by calming ourselves and being patient. The most antagonisingly provocative situation will elicit the most predictable response: people don't like having their freedom taken away, told what to do and being judged by strangers who pry into every aspect of their private life.

To have captive creatures to toy with as we please must make those men and women who wield godlike powers feel very full of themselves. "It's for your own good" is the well-worn defence for the indefensible. The very nature of the relationship is toxic to mental health. Mental health treatment cannot be imposed by those who know best, because they don't know best - psychiatry is such a young branch of medicine. Nobody really has a clue what they're doing. Long-term outcomes are abysmal and the mental health epidemic continues to grow apace. Clearly, evidence-based medicine is not being practiced.

Of course I don't think that psychiatrists and mental health nurses and all the other people who offer medical and complementary treatments for ailments of the mind, are bad people. Of course they're not bad people. I don't believe there's a Big Pharma conspiracy. The truth is though, people are sicker than ever before and the treatments aren't working. My objection is with those who talk authoritatively as if there are useful diagnoses and accompanying medications and therapies which are making a profound impact... it's just not the case at all. What's happening is abysmal, and nobody is admitting they've got it wrong - a lot of people aren't sick, they just hate capitalism and modern society.

Good science means controlling the variables. I've aggressively cut out all psychoactive substances. Tomorrow I shall tell my psychiatrist that I'm debt-laden and forced to work a job that conflicts with my values and needs. My malaise is a function of the conflict in my heart, knowing that banking is a morally bankrupt profession, loan-sharking and taking advantage of the most vulnerable. My prescription? The end of capitalism and the return to a society where we're intimately connected to our local communities... do you think they'll stock that in the chemist?

Getting my happiness and contentment back in the current economic climate looks to be an impossible task. However, to medicate myself because I'm having a sane reaction to an insane world is not a good course of action.

Of course, my psychiatrist doesn't have the ability to cure me of my intolerable situation. I've got to work. I've got to travel to where the jobs are. I've got to pay my bills and service my debts. But, I don't need medical solutions to a non-medical problem.

Why even go to see my psychiatrist, when I don't think they can help me? Well, it's obvious isn't it? If we keep sending people away with pills, then we keep proceeding with our delusion that they're working and things are going to improve one day. How many times a year do you suppose a psychiatrist meets somebody who's foresworn ALL psychoactive substances, including caffeine and nicotine, and is a functional high-achieving member of society, to all outward appearances? To say that a medical problem - suicidal depression and debilitating anxiety - doesn't have a medical solution is heresy, but somebody has to stand up to those who dogmatically decree that they have the solutions, when they demonstrably do not.

Being unmedicated is really horrible and I feel terrible, but I'm being a bit of a martyr because I've got a point to prove. One day I will escape from the burden of debt, the soul-destruction of bullshit jobs and the need to commute long distances, preventing me from forming social bonds and having a work:life balance. One day I'll get a girlfriend and a cat and a home of my own and all the other things that humans need to feel complete, and then we can re-examine the situation and ask if I need medication. Until such time as the major problems in my life still exist, then medication looks like a dangerous option, because medication is allowing our society to develop into a grotesquely unhealthy form. Just because medication allows you to do awful things, it doen't mean you should do awful things. If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong.

A certain proportion of society will always struggle to abide by its rules, its laws and its social contract. A certain proportion of society will be criminals and parasites - anti-social. However, when the vast majority of us are struggling and unhappy, then we've made a wrong turn somewhere; we've made a mistake and we need to retrace our steps.

I refuse to be labelled and drugged.




Long Case

9 min read

This is a story about medical notes...

Hospital Note

My ex-wife - a biochemist by way of undergraduate degree - once screamed at me in an incoherent rage because I had innocently asked her "how big is a protein?" having wondered how many nanometers across, the average protein molecule measured. The sheer audacity of me asking such a question enraged her, perhaps because free thinking is expressly forbidden in an academic world which promotes rote-learning of facts and examinations graded to a marking scheme, ahead of learning.

(The answer, by the way, is roughly 3 nanometres in radius).

When I attempt to answer a difficult question, I sometimes pause and chuckle. "What is consciousness?" came one question. Although I was desperate to talk about weakly interacting subatomic particles, General Relativity and nuclear fusion, I somehow managed to constrain myself to a meaningless analogy, while keeping quiet about my "mind's eye" which could picture every piece of information that captured my entire existence, smeared out in a infinitely thin sphere at the event horizon of a singularity, across all meaningful spacetime for the entire universe that I will ever perceive, which would have been rather a mouthful to express.

Just as one may cram for an exam the night before, I've attempted to only ever amass the prerequisite knowledge that may be considered the minimum viable to navigate whatever situations I have had to endure to reach my goals. Education has never seemed like an end in and of itself, given that our understanding of the fundmental nature of reality is evolving, and the Standard Model of particle physics is rather long in the tooth. Although I find it quite delightful that there are quarks named strange, charm and beauty in the particle zoo, I would find it rather frustrating to dedicate years of my life, obtaining a degree and writing a thesis using tools which may soon look as clunky and outdated as Newton's inverse-square law of gravity.

The mathematicians will mock physics as simply being applied mathematics. The physicists will mock chemistry as simply being applied physics. The chemists will mock biology as simply being applied chemistry, and so on.

Computers are now capable of solving equations and modelling real-world phenomena, potentially making algebra and calculus into dying arts, along with handwriting and long-division. The Fractal Geometry of Nature has revealed that cold rational calculating machines can produce simulations that imitate reality, through repeating patterns. Massive computational power does not only aid human discovery of hidden algebraic equations.

Amid much fanfare, computer software is touted as potentiating new drug discovery by simulating molecular binding, protein folding, rapid gene sequencing and personalised medicine. However, we seem to have forgotten that half the planet is impoverished & hungry, and vast numbers of those who are fortunate enough to live in advanced, wealthy & technologically advanced societies, are suffering from an epidemic of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues that is bad enough to drive vast numbers of men in the prime of their life to commit suicide: the biggest killer of males under the age of 45 in the UK - more than road traffic accidents, drug-related deaths, physical disease, murder, accidents and all the other causes of death.

One should consider that I took leave of my senses in 2008, but since that time I have only managed to attract two clinical diagnoses - convenient medical short-hand - although I have acquired a third which is perhaps the bluntest instrument of the three, and much more of a pejorative than a diagnosis.

"Substance abuse" is a catch-all term which serves me well when I haven't the time & energy to go into detail. Given humanity's long history of self-intoxication, some physicians would consider themselves to be well-versed in the matter. Even the most insulated amongst us, will have struggled to escape contact with a drunk in our lives. We quickly forget, of course, that psychiatry is an extremely young discipline. The isolation, refinement and synthesis of molecules which can short-circuit brain mechanisms, is something that dates back only 70 or 80 years, along with the branch of medicine chiefly concerned with treatment of matters of the mind.

The brain: the most complicated organ in the human body - estimated to have up to a quadrillion neuronal synapses - is often considered only in terms of its vital function as central nervous system, insofar as the same fatty grey matter helps other species to fuck, fight, flee and feed. This does not, however, tell us much about human consciousness, and even less still about pathological thought.

I once sat down and hand-wrote 12 pages of notes, from memory, of every General Practice doctor, psychiatrist and hospital, which I had attended during a 7 year period. Although I kept things as brief as I could, with names, dates and locations, as well as diagnoses and medications, there was a great deal to write. I'm not a complete hypochondriac - there were important notes about my episodes of depression and hypomania, where my mental health had caused me to become significantly dysfunctional.

Perhaps your mind is now skipping ahead - as mine often does - and you're attempting to finish my sentences. Presumably, you're trying to guess the punchline of the joke. I assume you've already got more than enough information to diagnose and treat me.

I'm second-guessing myself here, and I'm struck by the egotism and "navel gazing" of the very act of being sufficiently appraised of my own medical history that I should remember such a level of detail. Who the hell am I to take an interest in my own diagnosis and treatment? Where's my certificate, framed on the wall? Where's the photo of me wearing a mortar board & gown, and clutching a scroll of parchment with a red ribbon tied around it?

When I think about where I should spend my precious time and effort, I'm not motivated by the prospect of being an understudy to a failure. While psychiatry continues to produce dismal outcomes for humanity, in terms of the epidemic of mental health problems, addiction and general societal collapse under the weight of stress and burnout, I'm reluctant to follow in the path of those who are not succeeding in improving the human condition. It should however be noted that I do not for a single moment, criticise the well-meaning intent of those in the healthcare professions, nor do I mean to discredit the lifesaving work that takes place every single day.

The idea of using myself as a case study seems quite ridiculous, but one must consider that it would be unethical to - for example - risk a person's life when there is a treatment available that has been proven to be more effective than placebo.

With a sample size of one, perhaps nothing useful can be gleaned from my first-hand experiences, but I have attempted to corroborate my findings with other evidence wherever possible. I have deliberately avoided areas where another data point would make no difference: what use would it be if I too experienced anorgasmia as a result of SSRI medication, for example?

A great deal of our knowledge regarding the anatomy of the human brain has been gleaned from unethical experiments on unconsenting psychiatric patients - lobotomies, testing of medications and induced seizures. Animal studies have been gratuitously gruesome, with a great deal of unnecessary suffering inflicted upon primates. I'm not an anti-vivisection nutcase, but there must be very tangible goals to justify the means of obtaining the results.

To bathe a brain in psychoactive molecules that will cross the blood-brain barrier, is barbaric when we consider that the theoretical reasons why drugs have the effect that they do - the theories have so often been disproven. The 'chemical imbalance' theory that said that depressed brains had lower levels of serotonin, and that SSRIs would increase levels of synaptic serotonin, has been conclusively disproven, yet it is still a widely-circulated myth.

The much-vaunted sequencing of the human genome looks like a ridiculous white elephant of a project, when we consider that epigenetic gene expression had been discovered to allow genetically identical animals to exhibit completely different physical characteristics, depending on the environment that they have been exposed to.

In a collapsing global economy, education is one of the few sectors that's not feeling the pinch, and good solid science is getting drowned out in a sea of noise: pointless research. There are already excellent animal models which demonstrate that overpopulation and otherwise horrible living conditions, will produce a "behavioural sink" and addiction, in individuals who would otherwise lead happy healthy lives.

It has seemed fairly obvious to me from the start, that my mental health problems have stemmed from the ethical objections I had to the conduct of financial services organisations, and the role of global capitalism in ruining billions of human lives, in pursuit of unrestrained, unregulated and immoral profits, to the exclusion of any and all consideration of long-term consequences. In short: my problems should not be medicalised. I'm having a sane reaction to an insane world.

While this essay goes well beyond the "answer A, B or C" multiple-choice options on the prescriptive menu that is on offer, I feel that this does not invalidate the points I am making.

To have invested heavily in a mainstream education, would be to risk becoming incoherent with rage whenever somebody was so impertinent as to ask a thoughtful question - questions that spring into a mind that's unconstrained by the narrow status quo viewpoint, rote-learned while kowtowing to those with the necessary credentials to approve clones of themselves.

This is not "my ignorance is as good as your knowledge" anti-intellectualism, but instead a suggestion that we don't need so many people who've all read exactly the same books and sat more-or-less exactly the same tests. Moving towards intellectual homogeny is as dangerous as book burning, in my opinion.

In conclusion: this is a convoluted way of saying that you're unqualified to judge me, although you're possibly technically correct if you say that my problems are mostly of my own making.




Regretting Suicide

7 min read

This is a story about last regrets...

Golden Gate Bridge

The first time I took an overdose it was half by accident. It was 2014 and I was living in Kentish Town, London, with 3 strangers in an apartment that I'd just moved into. One of my best friends revealed that he had been harbouring a bunch of stuff that he was really upset about, but he'd been keeping secret - he'd lied whenever I asked if everything was OK. He suddenly let rip as if he knew my whole story, when in fact he only had one side - from my dad. I'd never felt so alone in my whole life.

I didn't mean to take such a massive overdose. When I was in the process of committing my semi-accidental suicide, I realised I could either evacuate the poison from my body, or I could let it dissolve into my bloodstream and kill me. I remember taking the decision to relax and take no action. I remember deciding to die.

I took a piss and it was full of blood. My chest was 'wet' with fluid on my lungs; my breathing laboured. My sides and tummy hurt, where my kidneys and liver were badly damaged - I was suffering renal and hepatic injury: multiple organ failure.

I collapsed and I couldn't move. I thought "this is it - I'm going to die".

Then, I realised that my death might look accidental.

I was upset that somebody might think I died by accident. I was annoyed that a coroner might conclude that my death was "misadventure". It was frustrating to think that nobody would understand that I wanted to die.

I started to think "I need to leave a note".

When you're collapsed on the floor and you can't move, it's quite hard to leave a suicide note. I had collapsed onto a laptop power supply & cable that was really hot and burning my skin - it hurt a lot and I desperately wanted to move, but I couldn't. "Dammit this is frustrating" I thought.

As I became more convinced that I was going to die, I started to think about what I would tell somebody, if I could communicate a message from beyond the grave. I wanted my death to be useful to the advancement of human knowledge, as opposed to a senseless waste.

* * *

I went to my local doctor's surgery and told the receptionist that I wanted to kill myself. She made me an emergency appointment. I went back to my apartment, where I couldn't even talk to my sofa-surfer. I was going to talk to medical professionals, or I was going to kill myself: those were the choices.

The doctor wrote me a letter and I took it to the Royal London Hospital.

After 13 hours, I was admitted as an informal patient onto a psych ward at Mile End Hospital, London.

One week later, I suddenly decided to record a video called "Goodbye Cruel World" and flew to San Francisco.

Some people might think my behaviour is rash; impulsive. In fact, I had a whole trans-Atlantic flight, plus the flight from the East Coast of the United States to the West Coast, to contemplate what I was going to do. I'd booked flights leaving myself barely enough time to get to the airport. 12 hours later I was stood on the Golden Gate Bridge, peering over the edge, having borrowed a bike from my friend and cycled there.

My amazing friends in the Bay Area were so great that I decided to get a semicolon tattoo to commemorate my trip instead of jumping off the bridge to my death.

* * *

I swallowed enough tramadol, codeine and dihydocodeine to kill me several times over. I had plenty of time to make myself vomit up the pills and phone the emergency services. Instead, I patiently waited to die. If I was going to feel any regrets, I would have felt them in the hour or two before help arrived. I had assumed that none of my Twitter followers knew where I lived, and I would not be found in time to save my life.

"What did you think would happen?" a doctor asked me. "I thought I'd fall unconscious, start having seizures and never wake up" I replied. "You're going to die slowly and painfully" I was told. "Oh well, at least I'm going to die" I thought to myself.

"No activated charcoal!" I yelled. "Don't pump my stomach!" I shouted. "Don't resuscitate me if my heart stops!" I demanded. "I don't want to be treated!" I commanded.

When I was off life support and no longer in a critical condition, I felt no regret. I still wanted to die. My intention had been to die. I didn't feel like there was some higher power looking out for me. I never thought for a moment that there was some plan or purpose to my existence on the planet.

* * *

The response to my fully premeditated suicide attempt, with a proper suicide note - the world's longest - has been incredible, and now I'm filled with a mixture of shame, embarrassment and a feeling that I owe friends and strangers a great deal of gratitude, for the love and care that I've received.

I find myself being looked after by an amazing family - who read my story and contacted me out of the blue - in beautiful Welsh countryside.

Friends who I haven't spoken to in years have gotten back in contact, and there seems to be a glimmer of hope for the future.

I wonder if people think of me as attention seeking. I wonder if people think that this was all a cry for help.

There's no doubt that when I swallowed those pills I wanted to die. I should have died - there was little chance of surviving; I had done the calculations; I had done the research.

I'm hoping that my mood will improve and circumstances will continue to be kind to me. I need work - a job; I need money. I can't stand still. To sit back and do nothing will only plunge me deeper into a destructively stressful world of pain, which will scupper any slim hope I have of rebuilding my life.

do regret the distress that I've caused to my sister, my friends and kind strangers who've followed my story. What now though? Do I attempt to go back to life as normal and pretend like nothing happened?

I've gone as far as it's possible to go to the edge of the abyss, without actually plunging to my death. I've learned everything there is to know about mental illness, hospitals, doctors, medications and psychiatry, without actually losing my mind and disappearing into an institution forever. I can tell you everything you never wanted to know about addiction and alcoholism. I can tell you about "hidden homeless" - hostels and sofa-surfing - as well as what it's like to lose everything and sleep on the streets. More importantly, I can tell you what it's like to fight back; to recover.

Fundamentally, this journey started when the odds seemed insurmountable.

The challenges ahead still look to be more than I can possibly tackle.





4 min read

This is a story about panic attacks...

This way up

Am I thirsty or do I just want to get pissed? I feel like my world is falling apart, but maybe I just want to numb myself with medication. I feel like I can't cope, or is it that I crave soothing chemicals? I feel like the tasks ahead are impossible but my perceptions are clearly warped - I don't know which way is up and which way is down.

If somebody was to burgle my home, I'm not sure whether they'd be more pleased with the expensive consumer electronics that they could resell, the wad of Euros that they could convert into pounds or the massive bag of opiates, benzodiazepines, sleeping pills and other highly coveted medications, which would probably be the reason for their criminal trespass in the first place.

I stopped taking opiate painkillers earlier in the year. It was hard, but it wasn't that hard. Sweating and nausea and pain; constipation and loose bowel movements; sleepiness and blunted emotions - withdrawal was over eventually and I don't even remember it being that bad, in hindsight.

How long have I been drinking a bottle of wine every day for? Tonight I've had a tiny bottle of beer and that's it, but my drinking has raged out of control, as I've sought to calm my nerves and self-medicate for incredible stress and emotional pain in my life.

How long have I been taking tablets for? Certainly long enough that if I abruptly stopped, I would have a seizure. It's a miracle that I haven't had a fit, but the gaps I've had in-between handfuls of pills - lasting two or three days - could have killed me in a multitude of other ways anyway.

Almost every day, I wonder why my optimism and hope has turned to fear, doubt and despair - I become convinced that I'm unable to function; unable to face the future.

Like many addicts any alcoholics, I'm overwhelmed by negative feelings and I become convinced that the only way to ease my suffering would be to kill myself - quickly by suicide, or slowly with drink & drugs.

Without structure & routine - social contact and the prospect of a happy & contented life - it's a miracle that I've not plunged into the deep depths of fully blown alcoholism and an ever worsening drug problem. Today was a sink or swim day, but I made it through.

No bottle of wine today. No Xanax. My situation is improving. My unhealthy consumption patterns of alcohol, drugs & medication, continue to abate, despite the protestations of my brain. I was in two minds about committing suicide tonight. I was tempted by alcohol - of course - but the urge to drink was relatively easily resisted.

If you wished to categorise me as an alcoholic and/or a drug addict, I'm afraid your attempt would be thwarted by the facts. Alcoholics can't stop drinking and drug addicts can't stop taking drugs. Guess again, sucker.

I'm suffering unspeakable discomfort at the moment, but I'm forcing my body - including my brain - down a path that it's reluctant to take, but it's for its own good. It will be weeks, maybe even months before I feel the benefits of what I'm putting myself through, but I know that if I don't do it, the alternative outcomes are very undesirable, to say the least.

Eventually, I will sleep without sleeping pills, feel free from panic & anxiety without tranquillisers, be able to cope with my neuropathic pain without painkillers... perhaps my body will even repair its damaged nerves, without the interference of artificial compounds not found in nature. Two and a half million years of human evolution, and you think we got everything right in the last 70 years?

Would I take antibiotics for an infection? Yes. Would I edit my genes if I could get rid of any faulty ones? Yes. However, psychiatry doesn't have a lot of triumphs to crow about - if superbugs don't kill you, then mental illness will probably ruin what little quality of life you had anyway.

My brain tells me I'm about to die or that I should kill myself. I know - rationally - that my brain is feeding me unreliable information, and that I should ride out the storm, however, knowing this doesn't make me feel any different at all.

Eventually, it's too much.